George Zimmerman Trial Coverage > Trial Motions and Rulings

State's Motion in Limine Regarding Expert Testimony

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Cylinder:
This regards Use of Force experts:
 
State's Motion in Limine Regarding Expert Testimony
 

--- Quote ---The State of Florida, by and through the undersigned Assistant State Attorney,
hereby moves this Honorable Court to prohibit any opinion testimony related to whether
or not (1) the Defendant's use of force was reasonable, (2) the Defendant violated the
Florida Statutes when using deadly force, and/or (3) the Defendant exhibited restraint in
his use of deadly force against Trayvon Martin.
--- End quote ---


The named expert is Dennis Root


--- Quote ---Dennis Root is the founder and President of Dennis Root & Associates, Inc. He has over 21 years experience in law enforcement, private security and corrections use of force training. Dennis is a renowned law enforcement trainer who has provided instruction dealing with force encounters on the street and within correctional facilities. As a career instructor, Dennis has a unique ability to clearly articulate and describe the complex and sometimes confusing science behind use of force decision making for both law enforcement and citizen encounters. He has helped attorneys, administrators, and civilian jurors understand the various factors that may justify or invalidate the use of force.
--- End quote ---

cboldt:
State's motion appears well taken, to me.  I know in civil cases, the expert is allowed to literally step into the shoes of the jury, and "render a verdict" on the ultimate conclusion.  Obviously, the jury can reject the expert's opinion, but the expert can assert an opinion, based on his knowledge and experience that "the product is defective," for example.  That conclusion results in liability, if the jury agrees with it.

I'm looking forward to the defense response to this motion.  Recall Mantei's argument in the Frye hearing, that the jury is free to reject the conclusions of an expert, and that the jury should be allowed to hear the expert's opinion.  That breaks down here, IMO, because the expert is not applying "expertise" to anything more complex than the jury instructions.  In fact, the expert is directly referring to law that will eventually be parsed into jury instructions, and applying a sort of "if you believe Zimmerman's account, then" logic, to find the use of force was "reasonable."

Martinez v State, 761 So.2d 1074 (Fla. 2000)

Notice Mantei did not attack the expert's qualifications.

cboldt:
One more remark comes to mind.  The state is not arguing to preclude his testimony wholesale.  It seeks to limit his testimony in very specific ways.  What makes me point this out is something in the description of Root's function, "Dennis has a unique ability to clearly articulate and describe the complex and sometimes confusing science behind use of force decision making for both law enforcement and citizen encounters. He has helped attorneys, administrators, and civilian jurors understand the various factors that may justify or invalidate the use of force."

The judge may allow Root to teach the lay jury about the law, the factors that come into play, but he cannot render an opinion as to whether or not Zimmerman's use of force was reasonable and/or exhibited restraint.  THAT conclusion lies solely with the jury.

O'Mara won't object to the state's motion. He will clarify the scope of testimony to be elicited from the witness.  The judge may disallow the expert because the subject is within the ken of laypeople, and requires no expertise.

nomatter_nevermind:

--- Quote from: cboldt on July 03, 2013, 03:39:58 AM ---The judge may disallow the expert because the subject is within the ken of laypeople, and requires no expertise.

--- End quote ---

Is that what you meant to say?

I thought you were just pointing out that the motion isn't asking for that.

The motion is quite narrow. It lists three opinions that Root allegedly expressed in deposition, and asks that the defense be precluded from eliciting them. And it cites case law that looks to me to be squarely on point.

My guess is also that the defense won't contest, but instead make clear to Nelson that they have other questions for the witness.

cboldt:

--- Quote from: nomatter_nevermind on July 03, 2013, 05:23:13 AM ---Is that what you meant to say?

I thought you were just pointing out that the motion isn't asking for that.

The motion is quite narrow. It lists three opinions that Root allegedly expressed in deposition, and asks that the defense be precluded from eliciting them. And it cites case law that looks to me to be squarely on point.

My guess is also that the defense won't contest, but instead make clear to Nelson that they have other questions for the witness.

--- End quote ---

I was suggesting that the judge might give the state more than the state is asking for, as well as one basis she might use to justify that ruling.  She might also use a rationale that instructing the jury as to the law is the judge's province, and not that of any witness.

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